“Things in this life change very slowly, if they ever change at all.” — The Sad Café, by The Eagles
The subject “race relations” evokes more emotion than anything else in America these days. And when there’s emotion, one can be certain that rational discussion has been pushed into the distant corners.
That was the case when the civil-rights movement reached its boiling point in the 1960s, and the people in power shouted, “Segregation now, segregation forever,” and it’s the case in the 2020s, when Black Lives Matter and The Woke claim that the No. 1 scourge of society today is “white supremacy.”
Neither side has the moral high ground, for as different as they seem on the surface, each has the same goal, and it’s not to promote harmony. No, it’s a political power grab. That’s all it was then, and that’s all it is now. People say and do the things that put them in positions of power and/or influence. It’s that simple.
Too many Southerners automatically recoil or get defensive when they read or hear about our unfortunate history of racism. We should own it, not run from it, and rejoice for the wrongs that have been righted, as much as humanly possible.
The new book “When Evil Lived in Laurel” will spark a lot of nervous conversation among locals, and it will probably draw national attention. Instead of getting defensive about it or wasting time and energy trying to defend the people who are called out in those pages, we should just acknowledge that it was indeed a complicated, terrible time in our history … but look at us now!
Laurel has its second consecutive black mayor, who was just elected to his third term, and a majority of our city council and department heads are black — and the city is enjoying its most prosperous, successful time in modern history! The hit show “Home Town” has shown our community embracing people of all races and orientations, and those aren’t just made-for-TV moments.
It’s quite remarkable when one considers that the leader of the White Knights of the KKK lived right here and was ordering the death of people who were promoting voting rights … and now, less than a lifetime later, the people who were being denied that basic right by the system are now not only part of the system, but they’re in charge of it. Take a minute to digest that. It’s amazing.
We are not pollyannish, but we believe people should focus on that and the fact that there were people such as Tom Landrum who quietly did the right thing, infiltrating the KKK to help destroy the evil among us. That should be a source of pride from what was a despicable period of our history.
When one reads the Bible or any work from any period of time in any region, human nature has basically been the same. Only the tools and mechanisms of destruction, delight and desire have changed. So to have an entire race that was systemically oppressed by every level of government and the culture go from there to the most powerful positions in every level of government — in a little more than 50 years — is nothing short of incredible.
We should be shouting it from the mountaintops, celebrating our progress together every day. Those who respond to the aforementioned facts with, “Yes, great strides have been made, but there is more to be done … ” are not only dishonest, but they have an agenda. And unity is not the mission. Keep that in mind.